It’s part of being human to experience emotional pain. We all have times in our lives when we feel down, alone, not good enough, angry or anxious. Sometimes that pain comes from things happening around us, and sometimes it comes from within, from our own thoughts and feelings. Finding a way to cope with those feelings isn’t always easy — and sometimes people turn to harming themselves as a way to cope with their feelings. One way people harm themselves is by cutting or intentionally hurting themselves.

Why do people harm themselves?

Some people cut or harm themselves to change their feelings (exchange feeling depressed or angry with feeling physical pain) and some self-harm because they don’t have ways to cope with the emotional pain they’re experiencing. Sometimes, people injure themselves to feel any emotion at all (when a person feels numb, the ability to feel pain can be a relief or a welcome sensation), and sometimes people harm themselves to express their painful emotions. If you learn to depend on cutting or self-harm as a way to cope with your feelings, it can become a habit that’s really difficult to stop even if you want to.

Often, people who cut themselves are not consciously trying to kill themselves – however, suicidal thoughts can go along with the strong emotions that cause a person to self-harm. Sadly, cutting and self-injury ends up making things worse and causing more emotional pain in the long run.

What can be done to stop hurting yourself?

It’s important to know that things can get better and that you can learn to cope with your emotions in many healthy ways that don’t make things worse for you. The first step is to talk to a friend or adult whom you trust – it will help to know that you are not alone and that people accept and support you.  Talking with a counselor or therapist can help you sort out what needs to be done to break the habit of cutting, learn new ways to cope with your emotions, and to help you feel better.

If you feel like you can’t bring up your difficulties to someone you know, a confidential conversation with a counselor will be a helpful place to start.  Text START to 741-741 for a free, confidential chat with a counselor, or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 24/7 to talk to someone about what you’re going through.

Here are some other links that might help:

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.